Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Meaning Behind "Messiah"

Many people frequently refer to the Lord Jesus as the Messiah or the Christ without even knowing the meaning behind this word. Many think that "Christ" is Jesus's last name when it is actually a title. Understanding what the word "Messiah" means opens up much more room to understand the person of Jesus and His relationship with His heavenly Father.

The terms "Messiah" and "Christ" both mean the same thing. "Messiah" is a loose transliteration of the Hebrew word Mashiyach, which means "the anointed". This word comes from the Hebrew mashakh, which means "to rub/anoint with oil". "Christ" is an English transliteration of the Greek Christos, which comes from the word chrio. This, as stated before, means the same things as Mashiyach and mashakh. In the Hebrew Bible, King Saul is referred to by David as the anointed (Mashiyach) of Yahweh in I Samuel 26:9. Saul was obviously not the anointed of God in the same way as Jesus, but he was an anointed man of God, chosen by the election of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit upon the believer is referred to as the anointing in the Bible (I John 2:27). Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit coming upon us and being chosen by Him. God anoints us with His Spirit like one would anoint another with oil.

Jesus is first referred to as the Messiah in Psalms 2:1-3. 'Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed [Messiah], saying, "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!' This Psalm is also the first to refer to Jesus as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7). The Messiah being referred to as God's begotten Son shows a unique relationship to God, and not only His deity and virgin birth.

Studying King David and other Old Testament types is an interesting way to understand the function of the Messiah. David is a type (or prophetic picture) of the coming Messiah, his descendant. David is well-known as being a man after the very heart of God (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and the same could easily be said against the Messiah, who is in fact sinless, unlike David. In addition to being a king, David (like Christ) was also a prophet (Acts 2:29-30). David also, at times, functioned like a priest (II Samuel 6:13) but never officially occupied the office. David's desire was to dwell in God's Temple (Psalms 23:6, 84:10). Jesus, however, is a prophet (Matthew 13:57), priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20), and king (Matthew 2:2). Jesus is unique in His uniting the offices of priest and king in one man (Zechariah 6:11-13). Joshua, son of Jehozadak in these verses is a type of Christ. He is referred to as "the Branch", which is a Messianic title (Jeremiah 23:5-6) and he also has a the same name as Jesus, albeit a longer form of it. "Joshua" in Hebrew is Yehoshua, which was shortened to Yeshua.

The Prophet Isaiah wrote more about Jesus Christ than any other Old Covenant-era prophet. God refers to the coming Messiah in Isaiah 42:1-4 as His Servant. "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; and He will bring justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

The Spirit of Yahweh that is upon the Messiah is described in further detail in Isaiah 11:1-2. "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD." This is sometimes referred to as the seven spirits of God. I prefer the term "sevenfold Spirit of God". These spirits represent different aspects of the Holy Spirit that God places upon the Messiah His Servant.

Isaiah 61:1-2 describes why God anointed the Messiah. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God..." In Luke 4:14-20, Jesus reads this passage in the synagogue at Nazareth and claims that He fulfilled it. This is right after Jesus's ministry began. Luke 4:14 describes how Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was most likely anointed with the Holy Spirit when baptized (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-33). We never hear about Jesus doing miracles before the baptism. The turning of the water into wine at Cana in John 2:1-11 is stated to be Jesus's first miracle. This is not to say that Jesus is not God or that He became God/the Son of God at the baptism, this is merely to say that Jesus was anointed for ministry when baptized by John.

Jesus's anointing is unique in that God did not give Jesus the Spirit with limit (John 3:34). Jesus's unique relationship with God as His only begotten Son is part of the reason why He has this unique anointing. He also is anointed in this way because He is sinless and because He needed to be anointed in a special way in order to redeem mankind from sin.

Jesus did not do miracles or cast out demons by His own deity. Jesus is God, but He is functioning as a man. The Messiah has to be God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 14) because the purpose of the Messiah's coming was to redeem all mankind from sin, and only the unlimited God giving His life on the cross would be sufficient to save all mankind, and the unlimited God had to humble Himself and become a man in order to die for sin. The Messiah also has to be a genuine man in order to be an empathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:15). The Messiahship is clearly not an office that just any man could take.

Anyway, Jesus's miracles were all done by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." In Acts 2:22, Peter says that God did these miracles through Jesus. How did He do this? By the Holy Spirit! In Acts 10:38 Peter says, "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

Jesus was not anointed merely to eat, sleep, drink, and weep. Jesus was anointed by God for the ministry of reconciliation between man and his Creator. Jesus Christ is not only God Himself, but also a man anointed by God in a special way to do His redemptive work on earth. Jesus was anointed to preach the Kingdom of God, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to open blinded eyes, to set free the demon possessed and oppressed, and also to die for our sins. Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon Christ, we don't have a Messiah. Jesus is the one that God chose to place His Spirit upon and in. We so often speak of Jesus's deity and emphasize it, that we forget that Jesus is also human. The humanity of Christ is just as essential for our salvation as His deity. I sincerely hope that this article was a blessing you all!

All scriptural quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).